Working with a Labor Support Specialist/Doula

We reviewed the benefits of working with a labor support specialist or doula here, but this section provides more details and information about finding and working with a doula.

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How can I find labor support specialists or doulas in my area?

To find a local doula:

  • Get information and recommendations from area childbirth educators, maternity nurses, midwives, doctors, breastfeeding counselors and others who may be familiar with doulas and women who have worked them.
  • Contact a doula trainer in your area.
  • Talk with new moms in your area who may have worked with doulas.
  • Search online for doulas in your area.
  • Check with local hospitals — a small but growing number offer doula services.

How can I choose the right labor support specialist/ doula for me?

If you decide you’d like to work with a doula, it’s a good idea to meet with several to find the right one. You can begin by gathering some basic information by phone about doulas in your area, such as their availability, experience, services and charges. You may also be able to find this information online.

Then, meet with the doulas who sound like good matches. We encourage you to print and bring this list of questions with you to your visits. Since this person will be working intimately with you and your family through one of the most important times of your life, it is worth taking the time to choose carefully.

After the meeting, ask yourself:

  • Does the doula seem knowledgeable?
  • Is she a good listener?
  • Does she respect my vision for my maternity care and birth?
  • Is her personality a good match for me and my partner?

What if I want to work with a doula and cost is an issue?

Doula services may cost several hundred dollars, and many insurance policies do not cover doula care. If you would like to work with a doula and are concerned about the costs, you can:

  • Check with your insurance company to see if doula services are covered. If there is no policy, you may be able to show them evidence about benefits of doula care and influence coverage for yourself and for other women in the future. If the initial response is "no," try asking to speak with someone in management or send a letter.
  • Check if there are experienced doulas in your area who offer some services at no or reduced costs. Some may be willing to set up a payment schedule at a rate you can afford.
  • Some doulas barter if you can provide desired services in return.
  • Find out if a woman who is training to become a doula (doula trainee) can attend; many such women attend births at no or low cost to gain experience.
  • Click here for a list of hospitals and communities with volunteer doula services. You can also check the hospitals and birth centers in your community to see if any have a doula program and whether you are eligible.

Do I need a childbirth education class if I am planning to have a doula?

Most doulas will strongly recommend learning as much as you can about labor and birth. They may recommend books or videos and many will refer clients to a childbirth education class. More and more doulas are becoming certified to teach childbirth education classes. They may include the class in the cost of their labor support services or offer classes separately for an additional fee.

If your doula does not offer childbirth education classes or you choose to take them with another instructor, here are some things you may want to look for:

  • Independent educator: An employee of a hospital, clinic or private practice may focus on her or his employer's preferred policies and practices. An independent educator may be more able to share all of your options and discuss disadvantages of standard practices. Chances are good that classes located in a community center or an educator's home or offered through a childbirth education organization are taught by an independent educator.
  • Certified educator: Certification by a national organization ensures that the educator has met some standard for skill and knowledge.
  • Enough time per class and number of classes: It takes time to learn new skills and information, get questions answered and explore issues. Look for a class with at least six sessions.
  • Small classes: Class size should allow for good discussion, individual attention and help and comfort with intimate or sensitive topics. Six or fewer women — with or without spouses/partners — may be ideal.